Nepal plunged into deep crisis

Nepal’s chief justice, Khilraj Regmi, also the head of government has implied that the elections cannot take place in early June this year. It has already been sometime since the government was installed. However, the government has not been able to announce the election date as yet.

Nepal seems rather lackadaisical about the democratic process. Since 2008, a large number of deadlines have been missed and yet the political class seems least perturbed. The first Constituent Assembly could not accomplish its task of promulgating the constitution even in four years and hence the need for a second one. Elections are the very essence of any democracy and the manner in which the four major political parties, the UCPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Madhesi Morcha, failed to respect peoples’ mandate is a proof of a political class that has scant respect for people.

The decision of the political forces to appoint sitting chief justice as the head of the new election government has added insult to injury. They have combined the judiciary and legislative powers, violating the very essence of democracy and creating a clear cut barrier between executive, legislature and judiciary.

The country has a dismal growth rate below four per cent, civic amenities are poor, and business is suffering. An important indicator is the business community which has scaled down production since last year as the government has failed to control extortion, abductions and killings of business leaders.

Opinion polls indicate that the people of Nepal are annoyed and may throw up a big surprise much to the chagrin of the big four political parties. One of the vilest causalities in Nepal’s politics is that the civil society may have got divided very badly. As a reflex mechanism India bashing continues to be a favourite sport but Nepal needs to look within as to why all the political parties and the Maoist with a clear mandate could not promulgate a constitution and now have gone in for a debatable solution in a democracy where a sitting chief justice heads the council of ministers.

Nepal is split roughly between the big four and the other political parties. The big four feel the current arrangement is conducive for elections while the other side of the divide that consists of 33 political parties along with the splinter group from the Maoist are against this decision. They want a level playing field and a political prime minister.

There are a host of problems but the question remains – is the country really ready for elections and does it believe that it can deliver a verdict wherein it does not face the same set of problems again? The political process which is vital for democracy is currently being stymied by the intransigent stand of various parties. The 33 party alliances is out on the street. They and a large number of people feel that the chief justice should step down. Both India and China ensure that Nepal does not draw a lot of international flake, thus are the political parties in Nepal pushing the envelope a little too much?

The Chinese are making steady inroads into Nepal. Recently, Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal met Chinese President Xi Jinping irrespective of the conditions back home. They, as reported, discussed four main issues – economic development, bilateral ties, free Tibet movement and the special relationship between the Communist Party of China and the Maoists in Nepal. China is very vulnerable to the Tibetan cause and the Maoists are exploiting it to the hilt.

Such a meeting, prior to elections, between the head of a political party in India and a foreign country say America would not be possible as the moral code of conduct would be effective. What if the elections are not held on time.

The blame will then fall squarely on the shoulder of the chief justice. Thus a section of the judiciary will be up in arms. This way the political class has managed to insulate itself and the office of the prime minister of Nepal has become a game of musical chairs. The political class in Nepal is thinking of party or itself first and people later.

If the elections are held on time, the post-election scenario may be full of surprises. One of the expected scenarios is that the big four will continue to dominate. Another scenario may hold surprises. Some other party may well gain ground, people may show their annoyance which will be a welcome change and may well show the power of the electorate which is what democracy is all about.

The thorny issue remains, if there is any guarantee that the constituent will be drafted. But above all people power should not be under estimated.

The author is a retired brigadier
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